Victoria chases lower COVID-19 cases as pandemic forces AFL Grand Final 2020 to the GABBA, Government attempting to bring ex-pats home by Christmas

A community health door-knocking program started on Thursday morning with more than 89 houses approached and 31 tests conducted as additional pop-up testing sites were promised for the Hume, Banyule and Darebin areas in the coming days.

Testing sites continued to operate across Broadmeadows, Coolaroo, Craigieburn, Heidelberg, Greensborough, Preston and Fawkner.

So called ‘Rapid Response Testing Teams,’ and engagement teams, have also provided testing and information at ‘The Mall’ and Malahang Reserve with more than 80 people attending.

The department also sent text messages to residents of Melbourne’s northern suburbs including Dallas, Roxburgh Park, Broadmeadows, Preston and West Heidelberg urging those who were experiencing symptoms to be tested.

The department is also testing a number of secondary close contacts at Sirius College and Ilim College.

They are connected to separate close contacts who will be tested again over this weekend.

Victoria’s commander of testing and community engagement, Jeroen Weimar, said East Preston Islamic College had “taken positive steps to manage this situation and is working closely with us. It has been closed for deep cleaning.”

“Staff and students who are close contacts – and their households – have been identified and are quarantining for 14 days,” Mr Weimar.

“We have a number of people who are self-isolating either at home or as part of the Covid-19 Accommodation program and are being monitored by Austin Health and Banyule Community Health.

“I am so grateful to our community leaders for working with us to keep people safe. I have held several sessions over the last two days to listen and act on the advice from leading community members. We are all Victorians working together to keep this virus away from our families.”

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‘He shot himself in the foot’: Seniors repelled by Trump’s pandemic response

“He knew everything all the way back in February and he didn’t take the precautions … he didn’t believe in science. He doesn’t believe in doctors,” Montesinos said. “He always tries to blame somebody else, like a little kid.”

Montesinos, who is from West Palm Beach, Florida, said he still plans to vote for Republicans in other races.

“It hurt me so much” to hear the president recently dismiss the pandemic by saying Americans were “pandemic-ed out,” Montesinos added. “He was going to be the best president the U.S. ever had if he had taken care of the coronavirus.”

Trump is attempting a repeat of his first stunning victory by banding together a base that’s still mostly white, largely male, less educated and older.

Underpinning Trump’s success in 2016 was, in part, an army of seniors that made up a large slice of the electorate and backed him by 7 percentage points over Hillary Clinton, according to national exit poll data. Older voters are among the most likely to vote and have sided with Republican nominees in every presidential election since 2004, reinforcing Trump four years ago and helping tilt key battleground states in his favor.

But this cycle, former Vice President Joe Biden is cutting into Trump’s coalition, making significant gains with older voters across the U.S., particularly in must-win states for Trump. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found the two men running even among likely voters 65 and older nationally — 48% to 49%.

In Florida and North Carolina, two states Trump narrowly won in 2016 and considered crucial for him to win in 2020, the president’s advantage over Biden with seniors is slightly better than his national standing but still well short of his margins over Clinton.

Trump leads Biden by 8 points in Florida and 10 points in North Carolina among likely voters over 65, according to a pair of ABC News/Washington Post polls — margins slashed by roughly half compared to 2016 when he carried this demographic by 17 points and 23 points, respectively, in the two states.

Trump campaign aides have grown weary of the president’s declining support among older Americans, a group they know is critical to his reelection chances, especially in states like Florida and North Carolina, sources told ABC News. Perhaps the most telling sign of concern in Trump circles over seniors is the president’s campaign schedule, with a rally set for Friday in The Villages, a sprawling mecca for retirees in a conservative pocket of central Florida.

“With the President at the helm,” Trump campaign spokesperson Ken Farnaso said in a statement, “seniors can rest assured their voice will be heard in Washington.”

In follow-up interviews with more than a dozen independent and Republican voters over 65 who participated in recent ABC News/Washington Post polls in Florida and North Carolina, including some who voted for Trump in 2016, most said they’re repelled by the president after four years. His fumbled response to the pandemic and derogatory rhetoric outweigh his much-touted economic gains, the voters said.

‘Trump just wants to get reelected’

“It was a really hard decision to make. From an economic perspective, I would be better served by President Trump,” said Cindy Cook, an independent voter in North Carolina. “I have trouble respecting President Trump. I find him to be offensive to many people. … He takes advantage of people — [Dr. Anthony] Fauci is one of them.”

The 68-year old from Durham, where Biden stopped last weekend for a campaign event, voted a mixed ballot, she said, but at the top of the ticket she chose Trump’s rival.

Al, a Republican living in Broward County who is now voting for Biden after backing Trump in 2016, said he took particular issue with how Trump has targeted Fauci, the country’s leading expert on infectious diseases, amid the pandemic.

“No reason for it. [Trump’s] wrong. Fauci knows what’s going on. Trump just wants to get reelected and make everything he does terrific, but he hasn’t done anything,” he said.

The president has ramped up attacks on Fauci in the final days before the election, blasting the leading member of his own coronavirus task force at rallies and as a “disaster” on a recent all-staff campaign call.

“I believe Fauci. I don’t believe anything Trump says unless somebody of substantial means can verify it. Because he just lies all the time,” said Al, who noted that while he’s supporting the Democratic nominee this election he will still be “a Republican now and a Republican after Trump.”

A path to victory for the president runs through the Sunshine state. In 2016, Trump won Florida by just over 100,000 votes, after Florida voted for Obama twice, solidifying its reputation as a swing state.

Trump’s path to victory also winds through North Carolina — a bellwether known for split-ticket voting after electing both Trump and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in 2016 — where changing demographics and polarization between urban and rural areas have helped maintain the state’s purple hue.

It’s a state that got behind Obama only once in 2008. In 2016, Trump edged out Clinton by fewer than 4 percentage points, offsetting Democrats’ strength in the cities and suburbs by running up the score in whiter, more rural stretches.

Arlie Thompson of exurban Union County, North Carolina, outside of Charlotte, told ABC News he’s voting for Biden, believing Trump’s response to the defining crisis of his first term eclipsed any progress made with an economy he inherited from Obama.

“He certainly dealt himself a blow by not dealing with the pandemic like he should have,” said Thompson, 77. “The economy is a mess now.”

Voters turned off by age-old attacks

Throughout the election, Trump and his campaign have made targeting Biden, who turns 78 shortly after Election Day and would be the oldest sitting president if elected, as mentally inept and merely a feeble puppet of the “radical left.”

Trump has relentlessly attacked Biden as mentally “shot,” mocked his memory, and used campaign gaffes to paint the former vice president to be in mental decline — efforts that have turned off some older voters.

Trump, 74, is only three years younger than Biden.

“With my age, of course I get insulted,” said Olive Norwell, 93, when asked about the president targeting Biden’s age and mental health. Norwell, an independent who’s voting for Biden from Vero Beach, Florida, a ruby red area along the eastern shore, added, “but [Trump] himself is 74 — he’s not that far behind.”

Days after testing positive for coronavirus, and with polls showing his support among older Americans slipping, Trump released a video targeting seniors that looked to reassure them the pandemic was under control. The president called seniors “my favorite people in the world,” even casting himself as one.

Just hours later, though, the president posted an edited photo mocking Biden by depicting him in what appears to be a nursing home, sitting in a wheelchair, with the “P” in the former vice president’s campaign logo crossed out to read, “Biden for Resident.”

“It’s the pot calling the kettle black,” said Rick, 76, a Biden supporter from Wake County, a Democratic stronghold in North Carolina that contains Raleigh and its suburbs, and boasts the highest population of any county between the two Carolinas.

“President Trump is the same age I am,” said Dianne Wilkes, 74, who lives in Raleigh. “Those remarks that he’s making, it’s showing discrimination. … It’s not going to help him one iota.”

“[Voters] also are going to be looking at how he’s handled and what he says about COVID-19 and the ludicrous remarks that are not scientifically-based,” she continued. “I think he shot himself in the foot.”

Wilkes, a more than 50-year independent voter who backed Clinton in 2016, said she’s voting for Biden. She’s also supporting Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, saying she changed her mind about Cal Cunningham, Tillis’ Democratic challenger and an Army veteran, after his extramarital relationship was revealed earlier this month.

Biden tests Trump’s grip on seniors

With an opportunity to peel off some of Trump’s base, the Biden campaign has made a concerted effort to court seniors, both in their advertising strategy and travel itinerary. His team has been running multiple ads in battleground states casting the former vice president as the true protector of Medicare and Social Security, and he made multiple trips to Florida in October.

The candidate’s most recent visit to Florida focused almost entirely on his pitch to seniors, hitting heavily Democratic Broward County and honing in on Trump’s declaration at a recent campaign rally that COVID-19 affects “virtually nobody,” mostly “elderly people with heart problems and other problems.”

“He was talking about seniors. He was talking about you,” Biden said, speaking at a senior center in Pembroke Pines, Florida. “You deserve respect and peace of mind, but you’re not getting it because to Donald Trump, you’re expendable. You’re forgettable.”

In Johnston County, North Carolina, which is considered Trump country having voted for the president by 30 points four years ago, one voter is still uncommitted, vacillating between Trump, who he supported before, or Biden.

“I think Joe fits the mold of a person I would most likely want to see as a leader,” Dan, 77, who declined to give his last name, said. “Trump makes a lot of smoke.”

Asked if the election were held today and he had to choose, he said, “I’d vote for Joe.”

ABC News’ John Verhovek contributed reporting.

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UK’s economic recovery fades in October as pandemic flares up – PMIs

October 23, 2020

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s economic recovery has lost more momentum this month as a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic hit businesses in the hospitality and transport sectors, a survey showed on Friday.

An early “flash” reading of the IHS Markit/CIPS UK Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), a gauge of private sector growth, fell to a four-month low of 52.9 in October from 56.5 in September.

A Reuters poll of economists pointed to a smaller decline to 53.9.

“The pace of UK economic growth slowed in October to the weakest since the recovery from the national COVID-19 lockdown began,” IHS Markit economist Chris Williamson said.

“The weakening is most pronounced in the hospitality and transport sectors, as firms reported falling demand due to renewed lockdown measures and customers being deterred by worries over rising case numbers,” he added.

The survey added to signs that the economic recovery is fading as COVID-19 cases surge, prompting some parts of the country to reimpose health restrictions that require pubs and restaurants to close early and limit social gatherings.

Britain’s economy shrank 20% in the second quarter, the largest decline of any major advanced economy, and official data has shown that the initially rapid recovery was already beginning to falter in August.

Since then COVID cases have risen sharply, and on Thursday finance minister Rishi Sunak was forced to expand support for businesses struggling to pay their staff at a time when he had hoped to wean firms off state support.

New orders across British businesses fell in October for the first time since June, survey compiler IHS Markit said.

The services PMI, which covers the bulk of the economy, fell to 52.3 in October from 56.1 in September, its lowest level since June. The survey pointed to a month of heavy job losses.

The performance of the much smaller manufacturing sector was better, although similarly marked by a sharp drop in employment.

The factory PMI fell to 53.3 from 54.1, its lowest since July, though optimism about future output struck a five-year high in October.

(Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Banyan – The pandemic has exposed South-East Asia’s poor governance | Asia

IT HARDLY FOLLOWED the script intended by Thailand’s army-backed government. In the face of growing demonstrations calling for the resignation of the prime minister, a new constitution and a reformed monarchy, on October 15th the government imposed a “severe” state of emergency, banning gatherings of more than five people. Far from being cowed, a formless protest movement morphed into a determined opposition.

Young activists, many still at school, poured onto the streets of Bangkok. They brandished symbols of defiance, such as a three-fingered salute borrowed from the “The Hunger Games”, a dystopian novel, along with flashmob tactics inspired by Hong Kong’s protests. Activists already talk of victory. In a way, they are correct: longstanding taboos, such as one against criticism of the monarchy, have been smashed. The emergency decree was withdrawn on October 22nd.

The indignation felt by the prime minister and former coup leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha, and his cronies is palpable—a sense that protests are a gross display of ingratitude. After all, in health terms, the government handled the pandemic remarkably well, with a mere 3,709 covid-19 cases and 59 deaths. Thailand, heavily dependent on tourism, now wants to reopen to visitors. On October 20th the first planeload of Chinese holidaymakers landed in Bangkok.

The protesters, however, see things differently. For a start, they say, weeks of lockdown nurtured a social-media ferment, which exploded in July after restrictions were eased. But above all, the handling of the pandemic notwithstanding, the economic consequences are dire. Thailand’s economy may shrink by nearly 8% this year. Many of over 500,000 university students who graduate in the coming weeks wonder how they will find work. One student says she and her colleagues associate their own pinched prospects with the king’s obscene wealth, kleptocratic elites and other embodiments of lousy governance.

The monarchy and its excesses are unique to Thailand. But the degree to which young people share the same perspective across South-East Asia is striking. In a region whose economy is forecast to shrink by nearly 4% this year, the World Bank warns that covid-19 will have a lasting impact, in particular, on inclusive growth, by hurting investment, human capital and productivity. The Bank predicts that, across East Asia and the Pacific, the number of poor people will rise by 38m; most of those will be in South-East Asia. The worst-hit victims are the young, especially in those countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, with large informal sectors.

For South-East Asia, the economic impact of the coronavirus is more serious even than that of the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98. Then, economic distress exposed the region’s dire shortcomings in governance. It brought forth calls, especially among the young, for political change. The crisis ushered in a democratic movement in Thailand. In Indonesia it sowed the seeds for the downfall of Suharto, the aged dictator, and a new, democratic era of reformasi.

Yet the pandemic has laid bare how fitful change has been. In Cambodia the strongman, Hun Sen, holds court like a medieval Khmer king, tolerating graft and locking up critics. In Malaysia, after hopes of reform, governing still involves cronyism, vote-buying and repression (and now the coronavirus is returning with a vengeance).

Indonesia’s health ministry has been so corrupted by embezzlers that when the pandemic struck, it struggled to respond. Its levels of testing are among the lowest in the world. In the Philippines, also notable for its poor handling of the virus, President Rodrigo Duterte has hounded critics, including the vice-president and local media. Now the government ombudsman has decreed that it is not the public’s business to see the declared assets of officials.

Across South-East Asia, elections exist either to entrench power or to offer a turn at the trough; some Filipino congressmen triple their wealth in a three-year term. Not just in Thailand but also in Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia—where street protests are under way against a new law that undermines workers’ rights and the environment—brave young people are speaking out against the old ways. Some divine in this inchoate anger an irresistible force. Can it prove more powerful than the immovable mass of South-East Asia’s kleptocrats, self-serving bureaucrats and strongmen? Well, that is another matter.

Editor’s note: Some of our covid-19 coverage is free for readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. For more stories and our pandemic tracker, see our hub

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline “A feverish mood”

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US election 2020: Barack Obama attacks Donald Trump for ‘ignoring’ coronavirus pandemic at Joe Biden rally | World News

Barack Obama has said Donald Trump is “incapable of taking the job seriously” as he took aim at his successor during a drive-in campaign rally for the Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden.

With less than a fortnight to go until ballots close, Mr Obama made his first in-person campaign stop for his former vice president.

Speaking to a drive-in rally in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – a key state for both Republicans and Democrats – the former commander-in-chief spent much of his time criticising his successor in the Oval Office.

He said: “Donald Trump isn’t suddenly going to protect all of us.

“He can’t even take the basic steps to protect himself.”

The former president added: “America is a good and decent place, but we’ve just seen so much nonsense and noise that sometimes it’s hard to remember.”

He also said that President Trump was “incapable of taking the job seriously” and that he “wants full credit for the economy he inherited and no blame for the pandemic he ignored”.

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Obama: I left Trump ‘a pandemic playbook’

Speaking at a rally in North Carolina, the current US leader criticised Mr Obama for his support of Hillary Clinton in 2016.

He said: “It was nobody who campaigned harder for Crooked Hillary than Obama, right?”

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North Carolina is another battleground state that both Mr Trump and Mr Biden are fighting hard to win.

The incumbent argued on Wednesday that Democrats and the media were obsessed with the coronavirus pandemic.

Barack Obama spoke at a drive-in rally for Joe Biden
Barack Obama was speaking at a drive-in rally for Joe Biden

He said: “All you hear is COVID, COVID.

“That’s all they put on because they want to scare the hell out of everyone.”

Back in Philadelphia, Barack Obama encouraged people to get out and vote.

Speaking to a crowd of thousands in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump declared that the United States was "crushing" the coronavirus.
Mr Obama criticised his successor for much of the rally in Pennsylvania

“I’m asking you to remember what this country can be,” he said. “I’m asking you to believe in Joe’s ability and Kamala’s ability to lead this country out of these dark times and help us build it back better.”

He went on: “What we do these next 13 days will matter for decades to come.

“The fact that we don’t get 100% of what we want right away is not a good reason not to vote.”

Speaking to the honking horns of support at the drive-in rally, the former president said: “We’ve got to vote like never before and leave no doubt.”

Watch and follow the final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden at 2am Friday morning on the Sky News website, app and on TV.

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Opinion | After the Pandemic, a Revolution in Education and Work Awaits

Welcome to the Times orchestra.

This is already having a big impact on education. “We have started hiring many people with no degrees,’’ explained Kumar. “If you know stuff and can demonstrate that you know stuff and have been upskilling yourself with online training to do the task that we need, you’re hired. We think this structural shift — from degrees to skills — could bridge the digital divide as the cost of undergraduate education has increased by 150 percent over the last 20 years.’’

Infosys still hires lots of engineers. But today Kumar is not looking just for “problem solvers,’’ he says, but “problem-finders,’’ people with diverse interests — art, literature, science, anthropology — who can identify things that people want before people even know they want them.

Steve Jobs was the ultimate problem-finder.

Now so many more people can play at that, because you no longer need to know how to code to generate new software programs. Thanks to artificial intelligence, there is now “no-code software.’’ You just instruct the software to design some code for the application that you’ve imagined or need and, presto, it will spit it out.

“We’re seeing the democratization of software — the consumers can now be the creators,’’ Kumar explained. It shows you how AI will take away jobs of the past, while it creates jobs of the future.

Finally, he argues, in the future, postsecondary education will be a hybrid ecosystem of company platforms, colleges and local schools, whose goal will be to create the opportunity for lifelong “radical reskilling.”

“Radical reskilling means I can take a front-desk hotel clerk and turn him into a cybersecurity technician. I can take an airline counter agent and turn her into a data consultant.”

Today, companies like Infosys, IBM or AT&T are all creating cutting-edge in-house universities — Infosys is building a 100-acre campus in Indianapolis designed to provide their employees and customers not “just-in-case learning’’ — material you might or might not need to master the job at hand — but “just-in-time learning,’’ offering the precise skills needed for the latest task, explained Kumar.

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Older workers face higher unemployment amid virus pandemic – Long Island Business News

For the first time in nearly 50 years, older workers face higher unemployment than their midcareer worker counterparts, according to a study released Tuesday by the New School university in New York City.

The pandemic has wrecked havoc on employment for people of all ages. But researchers found that during its course, workers 55 and older lost jobs sooner, were rehired slower and continue to face higher job losses than their counterparts ages 35 to 54.

It is the first time since 1973 that such a severe unemployment gap has persisted for six months or longer.

In every recession since the 1970s, older workers had persistently lower unemployment rates than midcareer workers — partly because of seniority benefits.

But in the current recession, older workers experienced higher unemployment rates than midcareer workers in each month since the onset of the pandemic.

The older workers’ unemployment rates from April through September were 1.1 percentage points higher than mid-career workers — at 9.7% versus 8.6%. The rates were compiled using a six-month rolling average and were far worse for older workers who are black, female or lack college degrees.

Among the newly unemployed older workers is Legasse Gamo, 65. He was laid off in March from his job as a baggage handler at Reagan National airport in the Washington suburb of Arlington, Virginia.

While Gamo is afraid of exposing himself to the coronavirus by working around others, he said he has looked for work — because he feels he has little choice but to take any job he can find.

The contractor he worked for, Eulen America, has required its laid off employees to reapply for their jobs. Gamo did so but said he has received no reply.

The immigrant from Ethiopia supports three grandchildren, ages 6, 12 and 14, who live with him. His daughter is still employed, but her pay is not enough to cover their expenses. Gamo gets $210 a week in unemployment insurance payments and said he has spent almost all of his savings.

“I just want to get back to my job as soon as possible to support my family because I’m afraid we will end up homeless,” Gamo said.

The New School study focused only on workers with established careers. As a result, it did not examine workers younger than 35.

It found that the pandemic has posed a unique risk for older workers, said Teresa Ghilarducci, director of the New School’s Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis.

“The higher rate of unemployment for older workers might be because this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for employers to shed older workers and not fear investigation by the labor department,” Ghilarducci said.

She added: “Age discrimination rules are not being tightly enforced. Employers, fearing economic instability, may want to get rid of relatively more expensive workers and take their chances with training new workers when the economy recovers.”

Older workers often face age discrimination, making it difficult for them to find jobs. Researchers believe employers laid off and resisted rehiring older adults, in part because they tend to face more serious health risks when infected by the virus.

The unemployment spike for older workers could force more of them into early and involuntary retirement, worsen their financial well-being and exacerbate financial disparities already experienced by women, minorities and people without college degrees in terms of retirement security.

New School researchers estimated that 1.4 million workers over 55 remain lost their jobs since April and remain unemployed. The figure does not include workers who became unemployed in April and left the work force.

The situation could have deep ramifications for older workers close to retirement because their final years on the job are critical for those who have not saved enough for their retirement and expect to work longer to shore up their retirement funds.

The researchers recommended that Congress increase and extend unemployment benefits for older workers, discourage withdrawals from retirement accounts, lower Medicare eligibility to 50 and create a federal Older Workers Bureau to promote the welfare of older workers.

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Disney’s sales plunge $12 billion in three months as pandemic takes its toll

To try to get some of that revenue back, the company said it would finally release “Mulan,” the action-adventure reboot that has been delayed several times since its March opening.

But the company said it would employ a patchwork approach to do so. The live-action film will be made available on Disney Plus in the United States beginning September 4 – at a cost of $US29.99. The same pattern will follow in Canada, Australia and some of Western Europe. Customers will be given indefinite access to the film in exchange for the fee, but only as long as they subscribe to Disney Plus.

In countries where Disney Plus is not offered or cinemas are widely open, meanwhile, the movie will go to cinemas. This will almost certainly include China, where the film is expected to generate a large percentage of its box office.

In moving the film to a digital platform in the United States, Disney is acknowledging that COVID-19 surges make unlikely the quick resumption of normal business – a belief embraced by other studios, which have either substantially postponed their movies to 2021 or pursued a more circumscribed American release plan.

Disney has settled on a patchwork approach to release “Mulan”.Credit:Disney

The “Mulan” announcement also finally resolves what had been one of the great ambiguities of corona-era Hollywood.

Where many movies – including those from Disney – had either been postponed to the end of 2020 or moved quickly to digital, “Mulan” had remained in a kind of purgatory, postponed several times as the studio sought to bring it to cinemas around the world.

With the move, Disney has decided on a solution, if a hybrid one. It will bring out the film in theatres in some countries but not others, and it is taking it to a subscription streaming platform but still charging a supersized cinema price.

Disney’s $US11.78 billion in revenue in the quarter was lower than the $US12.37 billion many analysts expected, though earnings-per-share of 8 US cents was above the 64-US cent loss many forecast.

The company saw major revenue drops in several business units compared to 2019.

Theme parks plummet

Theme parks saw a plummet from $US6.58 billion to $US983 million, a plunge of 85 per cent. No American or European park was open in the quarter, while parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong reopened only midway during the period.

Equally concerning for Disney have been the few rays of theme-park light since the quarter ended. The company reopened Disney World in Florida last month to begin rebuilding its revenue pipeline. But chief financial officer Christine McCarthy acknowledged the move has not panned out as hoped.

“The upside we’re seeing is less than we originally expected given the surge of COVID-19 in Florida,” she told analysts.

Disney chief executive Bob Chapek said that the park has experienced a “higher-than-expected level of cancellations” as people decide not to travel to Orlando, Florida, because of the virus.

With COVID cases on the rise, cancellations have also been mounting at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida.

With COVID cases on the rise, cancellations have also been mounting at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida. Credit:AP

The company’s studio unit, which did not release any major new movies to cinemas, saw revenue drop from $US3.8 billion during the quarter last year to $US1.74 billion this year, a slide of 55 per cent .

Its TV unit, however, was able to hold the line, as revenue stayed mostly flat at $US6.6 billion compared to $US6.7 billion last year, with many advertisers already paid up through the quarter. Harsher effects could be felt in the months ahead with the lack of new shows and a slowdown in the ad-sales market.

One of the rare bright spots in the quarter was Disney Plus, the streaming service the company launched in November. Disney executives said on a conference call it now has 60.5 million subscribers worldwide after moving a number of previously theatrical movies to the service, most notably “Hamilton” on July 4 weekend. The service is growing faster than many analysts expected, reaching 54.5 million in May and adding six million subscribers since.

The direct-to-consumer division, of which Plus is a part, saw revenue tick up slightly, by 2 per cent, from $US3.88 billion in the same quarter in 2019 to $US3.97 billion in 2020.

Still, with investment costs high, the company does not expect profitability from Disney Plus for several more years, and the direct-to-consumer division saw a loss of $US706 million in the quarter, 26 per cent more than last year.

“Mulan” is one way that challenge might be remedied: a product financed by another division that could bring revenue to the startup service.

‘Different approaches’

Disney executives acknowledged how uncommon the tack was but called it a necessary exception at this moment.

The pandemic has “forced us to consider different approaches and look for new opportunities,” Chapek said in an analyst call.

The move, though, is unusual even in the streaming world, which has typically offered an all-you-can-eat plan to subscribers in which all new content is available under the monthly fee. According to the “Mulan” plan, however, a customer must subscribe to the service just for the right to pay for the movie.


By placing the movie exclusively on the service instead of making it available through cable or satellite providers, the company is gambling that the benefit of the new Disney Plus subscribers it attracts will outweigh the lost revenue from people who are not subscribers.

It also is making a financial calculation: by putting the movie exclusively on its own platform, Disney is avoiding handing over as much as 20 per cent of sales revenue to cable operators, as studios typically do with distributors.

Later in the call, Chapek seemed poised to rule out the possibility this could be a trial balloon but then stopped short of that position.

“We’re looking at Mulan as a one-off as opposed to trying to say there’s some new business-windowing model,” he said. But then he added, “That said, we find it very interesting to take a new offering to consumers at a $US29.99 price point and learn from it.”

The company’s stock price has not dropped during the pandemic, as bargain-hunters and long-term investors have sent the price up more than 20 per cent since lockdowns began in mid-March. On Tuesday, investors, apparently reacting to the digital “Mulan” announcement, sent the share price up 4 per cent in after-hours trading.

Keys to a comeback

Both Chapek and executive chairman Bob Iger face significant headwinds in the months ahead. Any hope of a Disney comeback in the last six months of 2020 will turn on several factors related to the pandemic: Whether sports, particularly the NBA and Major League Baseball, can continue uninterrupted and bring much-needed revenue to ESPN; whether prime-time shows can begin shooting to ensure a reasonable start to the broadcast-network season in the northern hemisphere autumn; and whether enough cinemas can reopen in the United States and around the world to begin collecting box office revenue.

While Mulan will not be in US cinemas, Disney has high hopes for November, when it has Pixar’s “Soul” and Marvel’s “Black Widow” scheduled to open.

Disneyland will also need to reopen if the company wishes to restore its theme parks to its past glory; the park remains closed under California orders. The parks are key to Disney’s financial fortunes: with $US6.76 billion in operating income last fiscal year, the division was the most profitable of any unit besides television.

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Netflix misses estimates for new subscribers as pandemic boost slows

Netflix had warned investors that a sudden surge in new sign-ups would fade in the latter half of the year as COVID-19 restrictions eased.

During the quarter, Netflix released “Emily in Paris”, “Enola Holmes” and “The Devil All the Time.”

The streaming video pioneer is trying to win new customers and fend off competition as viewers embrace online entertainment. The pandemic sparked new interest in the service as people around the world were told to stay home, movie theatres went dark and sports leagues cancelled live games.

Netflix acknowledged that competition was increasing as studios across Hollywood from Walt Disney Co to AT&T Inc’s WarnerMedia have restructured to compete more directly for video subscribers.

“Competition for consumers’ time and engagement remains vibrant,” Netflix said in a letter to shareholders.

In recent months, major sports resumed play and nascent streaming services, including AT&T’s HBO Max and Comcast Corp’s Peacock, offered audiences new options.

Netflix said its results reflected the fact that it saw such a big surge in customers early in the pandemic.

“We continue to view quarter-to-quarter fluctuations in paid net adds as not that meaningful in the context of the long run adoption of internet entertainment, which we believe is still early and should provide us with many years of strong future growth as we continue to improve our service,” the company said.

“Emily in Paris” was one of Netflix’s original productions during the quarter.

Revenue rose 22.7 per cent to $US6.44 billion in the third quarter, edging past estimates of $US6.38 billion.

Net income rose to $US790 million, or $US1.74 per share, in the quarter from $US665.2 million, or $1.47 per share, a year earlier.


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IVF demand in Western Australian fertility clinics surge during COVID-19 pandemic

Fertility clinics across Western Australia are reporting a jump in enquiries and treatments since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Steven Junk, a scientific director at clinics in Denmark on WA’s south coast and Joondalup near Perth, said since COVID-19 restrictions had eased there had been a marked upswing in demand.

The Denmark clinic recorded a 30 per cent increase in bookings.

Dr Steven Junk said he believed couples were reassessing what was important to them.(Supplied: Fertility Great Southern)

Dr Junk said clinics were forced to close for six weeks during strict lockdowns earlier this year.

“We got an inundation when that shutdown finished,” he said.

“Everyone is busy, it’s caught everyone by surprise.

“It’s continued on busily at most clinics across Australian since then.”

Couples reassessing lifestyle

Dr Junk said he believed couples were reassessing what was important to them.

“There’s a lot of people that, during shutdown, were re-thinking what they wanted, what was important in their life,” he said.

Dr Junk said he expected the demand to continue for at least a year.

“It’ll be interesting to see next year how things will pan out, [whether] it just keeps getting busier and busier at all clinics,” he said.

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